24 September, 2012

Thank You Wonderland : Brussels

Somewhere in the past my life split off into this tangent. The moment it happened I fell into a reality, a life which forever what reasons became my life here in Wonderland otherwise known as Brussels. Life here isn't "normal" (meant in the nicest way), you can't explain it to someone who doesn't live here. You can't define what life is here. There's bad here, but it's usually outweighed ten-fold by the good. The mood of the city can shift from one neighborhood to another. One moment in your in deep solace, in a grey building with a vacant cold-war building and Dutch speaking friends and mindset, the next your in a rainbow building with puckered lip French people listening to vulgar songs and who seem to arrive drunk-on-life and always seem to have food in their hand. (I stereotype of course, which you're free to hate me for.) My American mind wants to make sense out of it all, but after a month you start adhering to the need of compartmentalization and acceptance of the city's cognitive dissonance. There are chameleons who are able to navigate the multi-cultural geography of the Wonderland, and then there are those like myself who feel they've landed in the most interesting place in the world trying to make sense out of it all- but you can't. I walk around with a smile at the chaos, the character, and the beauty of it all. Literally, it's the one of the greatest places on earth to witness the wonders of the human spirit in all its forms. All its expectations, all its hopes, dreams, failures and regrets, all in one place.

The tunnels from Gare Du Centrale to the Metro is a perfect example. The overhead sign plays Atari tennis as lights flicker and reminds me of a post apocalyptic relic. The graffiti'd, closed off passages lead to residences of the homeless each with their "government issued" dog. (My theory is when you become homeless, that you get a free puppy.) A lone floor cleaner drives in no sensible pattern and seems to enjoy his artistic waste of hourly employment and his responsibilities. It's all likely futile as the smell of urine never seems to fade from this corridor to the center of a city which is the hub of the second largest supranational governmental body. Yes Alanis, it's ironic.

I can tell when I pass through De Brouckere (a metro stop) without looking just by the smell (waffles) just as you can feel the trains through the vibrations of your feet, as to their arrival times without use of the overhead status boards.

I know nothing technological ever works here the way you expect, yet somehow you always get where you need to be. People with three PHDs and who speak five languages become like neanderthals around flames the moment transit, or technology stops working. Indeed I join in, scratching my forehead as a dead body lays in the traffic circle with police surrounding it,  and I wonder when the "magic moving rolly thing" will go again. Worse yet is the look of fear and devastation by a Belgian confronted with an escalator out of service. You step on, stop, realize it won't go.... get really scared... then realize they work as stairs too and feel deeply relieved.

I know everyday here is an adventure, a marvelous, wonderful, incredible, journey. Nothing is ever the same, and unlike my visits to more "proper" (wealthy) cities like Antwerp, my Brussels Wonderland has a heart, a soul, that I can't describe why I love, but I do.

So thank you Brusslels for the accordion player on the tram. Thank you for the dirty looks on the bus. Thank you for the kissing couples on benches and dark corners. Thank you for the filthy men. Thank you for the smell of drugs in the park. Thank you for the violin player in front of the church. Thank you for homework with wine and cheese. Thank you for a metro station called Kunst-Wet (you always make me smile). Thank you for the many splendored places and people. Thank you for the thief, the pickpocket, and rampant crazy people who seem to take a liking to me. Thank you for messages on the wall telling me to love myself. Thank you for everything.

I may never completely understand this city, but I love every bit of it. Most of all I'm thankful for the fact that the moment I decided to jump into the rabbit hole, was the moment I became grounded at the greatness of it all.